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Representation Of Women

Volume 406: debated on Wednesday 11 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in the representation of women at all levels of government in each Commonwealth country since 1990; and if he will make a statement. [118420]

The 1991 Harare Declaration identified as a priority for the Commonwealth "equality for women so that they may exercise their full and equal rights". And at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 1997 the Heads of Government set a target of no less than 30 per cent. of women in decision making in the political, public and private sectors by 2005. In a presentation to the Sixth Commonwealth Women's Affairs Ministerial Meeting in 2000, The Gambia was the only country which so far exceeded the 30 per cent. target of women in Cabinet, while South Africa was the only country with more than 30 per cent. of women in Parliament. In local government positions, Seychelles, Uganda, India and Canada exceeded this target. A questionnaire exercise is to be repeated for the next Women's Affairs Ministerial in 2004. The Commonwealth Secretariat continues to devote a major part of its budget to building capacity and providing practical assistance to women, which includes increasing their political participation and decision making. Its gender section works with governments, parliamentarians and civil society to achieve the Commonwealth target.